Robert Susa is likely to jut his jaw Bill Cowher-like as he ponders.
So when president of invention submission company InventHelp Pittsburgh, Susa’s been doing lots of pondering lately.
Since overtaking the majority of the daily operations from founder Martin Berger a few years ago, Susa has become vexed with what he believes is an unfair characterization of the company as a place that rips off inventors.
“Everybody here really cares about inventors,” Susa says. “We want to be the good guys.”
Susa says InventHelp isn’t for each and every inventor. InventHelp is a turnkey, soup-to-nuts operation for hands-off inventors. It’s for the one who wants other people to approach potential licensees and placed together virtual as well as other prototypes.
The organization says it uses “a variety of methods” to submit an idea or new invention to companies, including mailings, publicity releases, advertising and attendance at industry events.
“We just do not think that our opinion or anyone else’s opinion from the possible acceptability or market potential of any new product idea or invention is any not only that – an opinion,” InventHelp’s Website states. “We cannot make any correlation between that opinion and predictable acceptance through the marketplace. The only opinions that matter are the type of companies who may take a look at invention.”
Although that seems pretty straight-forward, few companies within the inventing industry have already been as polarizing as InventHelp, the Pittsburgh-based business also known to many as Invention Submission Corp. or ISC.
InventHelp will be the a trade name of Invention Submission Corp. (ISC), also known as Western Invention Submission Corp. along with a division of Technosystems Consolidated. InventHelp hosts the Invention & Cool Product Exposition or INPEX, the biggest inventor tradeshow in the United States.
InventHelp sales reps tell prospects their inventions are definitely the greatest things since sliced bread to sell them $800 information proposals. The proposals are derived from a template – a mass-production, cookie-cutter binder of boilerplate with the description and picture of the invention electronically inserted – and sent to general addresses of targeted companies. And if or when those info packets neglect to produce a licensing agreement, InventHelp sales reps urge inventors to get upgraded services for thousands.
“We don’t evaluate inventions,” he says. “And we give everyone the entire value of our services in the first meeting and survey clients to ascertain if they received that information in advance.”
With regards to accusation that InventHelp successful inventions offers cookie-cutter invention proposals as a method to snooker inventors with escalating services and fees:
“We don’t pretend the original report is all encompassing,” Susa says. “The basic information package is what we think we need to present a product to a company.
“Most patent attorneys make use of a template. As soon as you describe an invention, you’re really talking about the current market it suits. That marketing information is something we’ve purchased from government and also other sources. The details are concerning the market, not the invention.
“If you experienced a baby product, whether it is a crib or a bib, you’d check out the baby market,” he adds. “There might be a sameness on it.”
So that as for escalating fees, Susa says InventHelp’s fees “are presented to a customer at the first meeting. There’s no escalation. I realize companies that keep looking for money; that’s not our policy by any means.”
To be certain, InventHelp has received a colorful history, including run-ins with the United states Patent and Trademark Office and the Federal Trade Commission.
In 1994, without admitting guilt along with no finding of wrong doing, the corporation settled allegations with all the FTC, which said Invention Submission Corp., “misrepresented the type, quality and effectiveness from the promotion services it sold to consumers.”
Beneath the regards to a consent decree, the business setup a $1.2 million account to pay refunds to customers. InventHelp also says it instituted greater oversight of sales reps, spread over some 50 offices across the nation.
“We have embraced the consent decree and possess managed to get a part of our corporate policy and culture,” Susa says. “Every new employee signs a document agreeing to follow along with the consent decree like a condition of employment.”
The collective conduct of certain invention submission companies compelled the United states government to adopt the American Inventors Protection Act of 1999, which requires those invention submission firms to reveal licensing success rates, among other things.
InventHelp is the marked of lawsuits and consumer complaints, many of which are saved to the USPTO’s Site. Other Internet sites warn inventors to keep away from the company.
This year InventHelp sued and settled an unfair competition case against Gene Quinn and his awesome wife Renee for unflattering posts on Quinn’s influential blog IPWatchdog.com. Although specifics of the settlement remain confidential, Quinn did remove some posts in which he characterized InventHelp as a scam.
Yet in today’s hyper-connected, information saturated society, may be the “scam” label really justified? Can an organization that’s existed since 1984 still thrive when it were “scamming” inventors every day?
“From 2007-2009, we signed Submission Agreements with 5,336 clients. On account of our services, 86 clients have obtained license agreements for products, and 27 clients have obtained more cash compared to what they paid us for these particular services.”
Which means .5 percent of InventHelp client inventions clients made money from licensing agreements through InventHelp between 2007 and 2009. That’s double the percentage from years 2003 to 2005.
Inventions sent to direct response TV or infomercial companies have success rates of about .5 percent, based on interviews Inventors Digest has conducted with Telebrands and Lenfest Media Group, both DRTV companies.
Meanwhile, InventHelp’s rival Davison Inc., also situated in Pittsburgh, reports on its Site that in the last five years:
“The total variety of consumers who signed a Contingency Agreement or other licensing representation agreement is fifty thousand ninety eight (50,098). … The complete amount of consumers in the last 5yrs who made more cash in royalties compared to what they paid, as a whole, under all agreements with Davison, is fourteen (14).”
Should you the math for Davison, that’s a .027 percent effectiveness over the last five-years.
San Francisco-based invention submission firm AbsolutelyNew does not list licensing success rates on its site. AbsolutelyNew acquired certain assets of former – and notorious – invention submission company IP&R and relaunched within the new name in 2007 (please see our May 2009 article, What’s New about AbsolutelyNew?).
“To the very best of my knowledge, we have been in compliance with all the AIPA requirements,” says AbsolutelyNew vice president of product-development Bill Freund. “I was told that we’re not required to publish our stats to the Internet site (although some others, like Davison, might be required to achieve this from federal litigation against them). We share our stats in your first substantive communication with inventors.”
At the time of February 2009, AbsolutelyNew had 565 clients with contracts in progress, according to a document AbsolutelyNew provided Inventors Digest just last year. Of 1,638 client contracts completed, 80 clients, or 4.88 percent, obtained licensing agreements.
Five licensed clients “have already earned more in royalties compared to they paid for marketing services,” the document adds. Again, doing the math, .3 percent had earned more in royalties compared to they paid in fees to AbsolutelyNew by early this past year.
Freund says the business has launched “a handful of new services,” so the quantity of people who’ve made more cash than they’ve paid in fees should “increase significantly.”
Quinn, the patent attorney who fought InventHelp and settled this current year, says InventHelp’s “numbers are better than I figured these folks were.”
“If they could double what they’re doing now, just how much better would you realistically expect these to do given their take-all-comers business design? I’m not seeking to be an InventHelp apologist,” Quinn says. “You must recognize the past. But to be really fair, there is also to acknowledge this current trend.
In college Susa blew out an elbow en path to a baseball career and later on sought to become a fed – a “G” man, a drug enforcement agent or even a spook together with the FBI. But he says a federal hiring freeze forced him to detour. After a brief stint with Pilsbury, he took at job as being a compliance manager with Invention Submission Corp. That had been 2 decades ago..
He climbed InventHelp’s ranks. Since assuming a co-leadership role together with founder Berger, Susa continues to be on a mission to rehab the company’s reputation.
His initiatives included dissecting why potentially promising licensing deals died. In some instances they lacked prototypes. So Susa says he “brought in the guy who’s proficient at prototyping and virtual prototyping.” InventHelp also obtained services of the Chinese manufacturer that does small-inventory runs.
The company’s Site offers multiple cautionary statements about the odds against financial success in the inventing industry. And Susa says when a salesperson misrepresents or otherwise overhypes what InventHelp can deliver, the organization investigates. If it’s the first-time offense, the salesperson may have to undergo more training. If it’s a repeat offense, the salesperson may be let go, Susa says.
“We’re learning and having better as we go along,” Susa says, noting that InventHelp is on pace to eclipse 50 licenses this season, the best ever for that company. “I bring a simplistic view to things. Here’s where we have been. Here’s where we should be. I’m about identifying the roadblocks and eliminating those roadblocks.”
His timing could not have been better. Greater access to information regarding the invention industry, a recession that has compelled many to pursue inventing and entrepreneurship, downsizing in corporate research and development, along with the resulting necessity for companies to look outside their lairs for new ideas has helped bring about a gadget renaissance of sorts.
InventHelp, trying to take advantage of these confluent trends, spends hundreds of thousands of dollars each year on tv and radio commercials. The company’s ads with the caveman logo are ubiquitous on ESPN and CNN.
Susa dismisses criticism that InventHelp lacks contacts and relationships with company buyers.
“It’s virtually impossible for independent inventors to manage large companies,” Susa says. “We have 6,000 companies in your data bank and all sorts of have signed non-disclosure agreements and have told us what parts of interest they wish to see.”
Susa says he personally involves himself in high-level negotiations with major companies that express fascination with licensing certain new items from InventHelp clients.
Quinn, the patent attorney and prolific blogger who arguably has more reason to loathe InventHelp than most others, avers that after years of being viewed as the guys in black hats, InventHelp “seems ready to join the polite community.”
Also, he contends that inventors or would-be inventors should do their homework.
“It’s amazing to me what number of these inventors who state they have already been rooked don’t have basic Internet skills,” says Quinn, noting that this Internet “is where each of the good ‘buyer beware’ information and facts are.
“And they see something in the media or radio, and say, ‘I saw this on ESPN, which means that this needs to be legit,’ and that’s probably the sum total of their due diligence.
“The industry,” Quinn adds, “has a population that expects a check to reach you without doing much, if any, work.”
Even a lot of work fails to guarantee market success. Susa talks about the efforts his team put behind one inventor’s new sort of toothbrush. After having a promising start, an important DRTV conducted a market test inside the Midwest. The infomercial company paid for filming, the works. As well as the product “bombed miserably,” Susa admits.
“That’s not a success for all of us, but we did a phenomenal job getting this system on the market,” he says. “It experienced a similar process blockbuster products experience.”
Following the morning, Susa wants the inventing community to believe him when he says InventHelp would like to commercialize products.